WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Washington Capitals began the stretch run coming out of the bye week and went 0-1-1. This team has proven me wrong so far this season by their incredible stretch of play over the last two months.
That being said, a quick reminder to Capitals fans and league analysts, for the first two months of the season the Capitals were the 4th or 5th best team in the Metropolitan Division. Yes, the division has been the best in the NHL this season, so they were still in a good spot, but over the first four months of the season we have seen a good Capitals team followed by a great Capitals team, where nothing could go wrong.
Which team will we see over the last two months of the season? My guess is somewhere in between.
The elevated play the last two months has been due to great goaltending, unbelievable shooting percentages, and an abundance of luck. During the bye week, Japers' Rink tweeted out the following table that shows the top 10 PDO teams in the
Behind the Net era.
The downside is only one team on this list has won the Stanley Cup in the season they had the great PDO and that was the 2008-09 Boston Bruins. So 1 of 8 teams with a great PDO has gone on to win the Stanley Cup, given that two teams on the list are active PDO's (Capitals and Wild).
Teams that have a PDO of above 102 can generally be considered not as good as they appear and that can help explain why only one of those eight teams has won the Cup. It should also immediately put up a red flag for Capitals management as they approach the trade deadline.
1) The Washington Capitals acquired Tom Gilbert from the Los Angeles Kings during the bye week. Some people jumped on me on Twitter because I felt the deal was pointless for the Capitals. So let me clarify. It doesnít hurt the Capitals in any way. But for people to think that Gilbert can step in if one of the Capitals right-handed D, John Carlson or Matt Niskanen, get injured, they are mistaken. Gilbert had knee surgery just about a year ago and so far in limited action this season has looked like he hasnít fully recovered. That isn't his fault, the older you get, the harder it is to maintain speed and agility returning from a knee surgery. So I don't see him having any positive impact for the Capitals and am skeptical he will have a huge impact in Hershey, so that is why I feel the deal is pointless. I will be happy for Tom and for the Capitals if he proves me wrong.
2) The shooting percentages for T.J. Oshie (23%), Marcus Johansson (21%), Brett Connolly (20%), and Justin Williams (16%) will likely come back to reality over the last six weeks of the regular season.
3) With the shooting percentages in mind, the Capitals should be willing to move on from T.J. Oshie following this season. He is 30 years old and will likely receive a deal of five or more years, worth over $5.5M per year, from some team. It is not wise for the Capitals to go down that road and Oshie will also likely not maintain this season's pace during the majority of that contract.
4) The Capitals have two players in contention for major awards this season in my opinion: Braden Holtby going after the Vezina and Nicklas Backstrom for the Hart Trophy.
5) Capitals fans should spend the next six weeks watching the N.Y. Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs. There is a good chance that one of these teams will be the Capitals first round matchup.
6) Philipp Grubauer has been great this year as a backup for the Capitals. This summer, he will likely be taken in the expansion draft and the Capitals would lose him with no return. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan has to consider moving him before the trade deadline and getting some return for him especially given the Capitals lack of draft picks in 2017. Over the last six weeks of the NHL season, Grubauer's starts will likely be minimal so if a GM wants Grubauer it is worth considering.
7) The NHL trade deadline is eight days away. While the Capitals may do nothing more by the deadline, they are definitely still sniffing around to see if prices of players come down. If they can upgrade the second line (as two of the four forwards with great shooting percentages reside on that line) they will do so. The Capitals may also need some help on the blueline, but for me the more pressing need is a true goal scorer on that second line.
8) With that said, players with term to keep an eye on: Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Evander Kane and Jordan Eberle.
9) Some names to keep in mind if they go for a rental over their youth: Alex Burrows, Thomas Vanek, P.A. Parenteau, Rene Bourque, Radim Vrbata, Patrick Eaves and Patrick Sharp. Please keep in mind that the Capitals do not have their second- or third-round draft choices in 2017, so a rental will be very tough to pull off. If moving their first-round pick, a player with term better be coming back. I list Burrows and Bourque on here not because they are top-six caliber forwards, but if other pieces go out to make a bigger trade, you may need to fill those voids.
10) The Capitals, over the last 10 days, have done their fair share of scouting the Buffalo Sabres and the Colorado Avalanche. That doesn't mean that a deal will happen with either of these teams or that an offer will ever occur, but they have their eyes on certain players.
The Washington Capitals are a good hockey team and are a contender for the Stanley Cup. Unlike Las Vegas, I would not consider them the current favorite and believe they need to bolster their roster.
As many of you know, I am a proponent of trying to acquire Duchene, but I think ultimately the Capitals will make a very hard push for Kane before the trade deadline. Remember, they had interest in him two years ago at this time of year.
The major reason he would fit is even strength scoring is huge in the playoffs and 20 of Kane's 21 goals this season have come at ES. A deal for Kane would likely mean a current roster player would be moving on from D.C. Buffalo may not want to trade Kane given their recent trajectory of play, but if they do it will cost the Capitals though not as much as Duchene or Landeskog would.
Do not be surprised if this is the ace up MacLellan's sleeve in the next eight days as this is the organization's best chance to win a Stanley Cup and they may not be back in this position again in the near future.
Patrick Greissing is the Washington Correspondent for The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.